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That's why I love the way we get ebooks in Poland. When we buy an ebook, we usually get a pack of files (epub/pdf/mobi), without any DRM, but with watermarks, some visible, some hidden. Same for audiobooks. There's no DRM, there's some piracy, as always, but the system works and it works pretty damn well. I wish american ebook and audiobook stores were like this.



Importantly, a digital watermark can also be used to track which citizens are reading subversive literature. I'll admit, the modern internet has so much tracking that this point is a bit moot. But, why add one more bit of tracking?


How does it track that unless you upload the file somewhere public?


This is how Pragmatic Programmer distributes their ebooks. I think it's a really good compromise, personally.


I get my books from Google play books and it does allow downloading as epub. I'm not sure if it includes any kind of drm in it though. I always assumed all of them allowed downloading

# Edit: apparently you need something called Adobe digital Editions to read that epub later. So there is some kind of drm.


Apprentice Alf will take care of that.


Google Play Books may or may not have ADE DRM; it varies from title to title.


Google's ebook store tells you below the description if a book has DRM.


Chosen by the publisher AFAIK.


I think the reason why no-DRM approach took off in Poland is because Amazon has been slow to enter the market. None of the competitors were large enough to develop and maintain a DRM ecosystem (with reading apps, readers etc). I'm sure they would have liked to (corporate brainlessness knows no limits), but they were not able to pull it off.

The result is indeed great: E-books are reasonably priced, they get auto-delivered (as "docs") to your Kindle if you wish, or you can get an ePub version if you prefer. You really do own them: the publisher might disappear, but if you keep your files, you keep the books.

I don't think piracy is a factor. It's way too easy to buy the real thing at this point.


also some publishers let you upload your books directly to Dropbox.


Why should your ebook files be watermarked? Your printed books aren't. Watermarks are ugly.


Because it's trivial to turn one ebook into a billion pirated copies, not so much with a physical book. It's a huge difference in logistics.


It's trivial even with a watermark and all other forms of DRM. As demonstrated by the article, DRM only punishes paying customers that don't understand what they're paying for.


DRM always restricts the paying customer. With DVDs they got the unskippable piracy warnings, while people who downloaded the ripped version wouldn't see it ...

The hope publishers have is that it slows distribution a bit and they use it as attempt to manipulate people to allow stronger punishment of infringers.


It's actually not that easy for most books, because most books aren't popular enough to sustain a torrent. A PDF of a book is usually tens or hundreds of megabytes, which is too big to get through most mail servers. Mass-sharing an ebook takes just enough work that it won't happen for anything that's not a best-seller.


Mass sharing a scanned book, particularly one that was not OCRed, indeed usually takes too much work. EBooks, or rather most of them, are tiny epub files with little to no images, 5mb maximum. There are sources distributing ebooks at scale, libgen.io is a prime example, the ebooks channel on IRC highway and myanonamouse, a private ebook and audiobook torrent tracker that some people apparently use also exist. There are rumours of private collections spanning millions of titles that fit on a single, albeit large, hard drive.


Gotcha -- an epub/mobi of a novel is tiny and easy to host. I was thinking of more design-heavy books with figures and images, which tend to be much larger.


Still, if people torrent audiobooks (and they do), then eBooks, even with figures, can't be that bad. I've seen hosted collections of audiobooks ranging in the gigabytes and they were not best sellers. No reason why you couldn't do that for ebooks.


Thanks for the warning. I've published a ~100MB niche ebook, and thought of publishing another. Now I need to reconsider.


What are you talking about? Ebooks are tiny. It's just text.


I'm fine with watermarks. The only downside to them is that they are traceable to the original buyer if someone else gets their hands on your and decides to distribute it online, so lending them to a friend is risky.

But the watermarks really only matter when they get illegally copied around, and don't hurt the owner in the way more restrictive forms of DRM do.


Risky how? Is there some punishment for not perfectly securing bytes? That would be insane because companies aren't punished for sharing your stuff by accident or even selling it on purpose.


Maybe they should be.


in the blind community I'm a part of, there are a lot of ebooks floating as plaintext files, with watermarks either stripped or replaced by something like "there was a watermark here, but it has been stripped. Keep trying".


There will always be hacking. When you sell ebooks without drm and with just reasonable watermarking, you remove all the incentive for ethical hacking. This remains only the unethical hacking (the thieves).


Well, that “downside” is the entire point. Czech publishers call this “social DRM”, which conveys the point well: if the book says it was printed for me, visibly, I won’t be inclined to distribute it illegally. It isn’t about enforcement (see sibling comment). And yes, you can strip visible watermarks, but this still discourages casual pirates well.


Because you can't trivially make identical - down to cuts, paper type, print fidelity - copies of a physical book. But you can trivially make identical copies of a digital one.

Watermarks are an attempt at reproducing rules of physical space in digital space.


By making the owned copy ugly and harder to read yet still trivially copyable? Something does not compute here.


These watermarks only appear a few times in places like beside the page number. You'll have to provide a darn good explanation to convince me it makes the book harder to read.

And yes, it's still trivially copyable, but that makes it better in any way than DRM: it can be traced back to the original owner but doesn't make it unnecessarily hard to read it on multiple devices.


Might be the next revenge vector. Share an ebook with faked watermarks.


Traced back for what purpose? What's the punishment? Any answer, other than "none", would be insane.


If your watermarked version appears online it is an indication that you might have uploaded (or not properly protected) it. This might not be enough to prove this in a court, but enough for the publisher's lawyers to annoy you.

But hardly any uploader would keep watermarks in, which makes them more of a way for faithful users to not give the book I.e. to friends since there is a visible reminder about being your personal copy.


An uploader can easily edit the watermark out of the book, if he is so inclined, and he probably is. It only annoys those who were not bent on uploading it in the first place.

Also, I specifically would not abide to any kind of law saying I cannot give a book I bought to a friend.


Many readers can't (they could learn it though) enough however indeed can.

That's why, from publisher's view, the second point is so important: Remind readers all the time that "it" (without going into details) is illegal so they continue buying.


Its still a legal environment where it is illegal to share or transfer ownership of books


It's not that kind of watermark. Rather, usually at the beginning, there'll be some text saying who bought the book, along with some kind of identifier. The id can also be hidden inside the file.


The books I've investigated had a text saying "This copy belongs to: %s" where %s was an email address at the beginning, and an invisible hex string at the end of every chapter. The string had a width and height of 1px, so most conventional readers didn't show it at all.


> Something does not compute here.

That's right. They are trivially copyable, but the copies are easily traceable. Compute now?


Unless you quite easily remove the watermark.


These aren't visual watermarks like what you'd get on physical paper. They just alter the digital copy so that it can be traced back to the buyer, and people are deterred from sharing it on the web. It's a very elegant solution if the 'watermark' can be made hard enough to remove, and I can see quite a few workable approaches.


> These aren't visual watermarks like what you'd get on physical paper.

Except they often are visual. "Owned by X" and such.


> Why should your ebook files be watermarked?

Because digital things can be copied for free without loss of fidelity.

> Your printed books aren't. Watermarks are ugly.

A digital watermark can be invisible.


Do you mean even books from Kindle store are without DRM?


There is no Kindle in Poland. In fact, there is no Amazon in Poland either(which is almost ironic considering that there are a couple huge Amazon warehouses in Poland - they serve customers of Amazon.de, as they are both very close to the German border - I suspect the labour costs are lower in Poland hence it makes more sense to have the warehouses there. Incidentally, going to Amazon.pl redirects you to Amazon.de instead).

However, in the absence of Amazon, domestic services have sprouted instead - there's a few very big ebook stores, an excellent Audible replacement(with huge superproductions involving famous Polish actors voicing the lines being made regularly), instead of Amazon and Ebay we have Allegro(which in my personal opinion has leapfrogged ebay by about a century worth of development, it's just a much nicer experience). Ebay tried entering the Polish market a few times with huge marketing campaigns and lots of deals, but Allegro's dominance is just so untouchable that I think they have just given up now. I suspect Amazon doesn't even try for the same reason - it's not even localized to Polish(although Polish customers can still order items from any Amazon site, they get delivered to Poland without any issues and for free if you have Prime).


Without amazon many smaller publishers would fill the market.


I believe he means polish e-bookstores. They're way more popular than Kindle store because they offer books in polish language. IIRC some of the stores started offering DRM-free books, others followed and generally it became kind of a standard in Poland.


Evolved the same way in neighboring Czechia.


What do you use for DRM-free audiobooks in Poland?


audioteka.pl. They offer mp3s. They're apparently pretty weirdly encoded sometimes, but there's no real DRM. Of course, if you want to, you can use their own mobile apps which don't let you extract the content and provide gimmicks like remembering your last position. There are also some smartphone-only deals, but you can usually get the book in mp3 for a higher price.




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